Life Satisfaction and Self-Employment is an interesting academic study out of the UK.
There's been many studies showing the self-employed tend to be more satisfied with their work than folks who are employees.
Most of these studies show the autonomy, control and flexibility associated with being your own boss are the main reasons.
But due to methodological issues and problems, few studies have attempted to link overall life satisfaction and happiness with self-employment. The authors of this paper use a pretty clever research approach (see the paper for the details) to overcome these.
According to the paper the bottom line is:
"... we find that individuals who move from regular employment into self-employment experience an increase in life satisfaction."
The research also differentiates between people who chose self-employment (called "opportunity entrepreneurs") and those that became self-employed due to unemployment ("necessity entrepreneurs").
Not surprisingly, opportunity entrepreneurs are happier with their work and lives than necessity entrepreneurs.
Also, while opportunity entrepreneurs are happier than traditional employees, necessity entreprepreneurs tend to show the same level of work and life satisfaction as traditional employees.
These findings are very much in alignment with the results of our work surveying and interviewing the self-employed. We've consistently found that choice is the single most important indicator of self-employment satisfaction and success.
In other words, those that choose self-employment are more likely to be satisfied and self-identify as being successful than those that become self-employed due to a lack of other options.
This does not mean necessity entrepreneurs are doomed. Just the opposite, our research shows that the average necessity entrepreneur is both satisfied with self-employment and self-identifies as being successful.
But statistically speaking, on average they aren't as happy or consider themselves as successful as those who chose to be self-employed.